Friday, January 30, 2009

Reading readers on the tube

In case you haven't heard, we have moved. As a result, I don't spend most of my commute walking up and down stairs switching tube lines. Instead, now I spend a good 10-15 minutes on one train[1]. This can get quite boring as I cannot read on the tube and it is usually too loud for music / podcasts. So I use my time wisely and conduct groundbreaking research on the reading habits of travellers on the Edgware branch of the Northern Line. I started with people at my station but they didn't meet the diversity requirements[2] and therefore, I expanded the study to all travellers on the line. Not surprisingly, what people read on the Edgware branch of the Northern Line is not very different from what people read on other lines though the distribution of segments vary. As a public service, I thought I would enlighten you all with the results of my totally unscientific study - perhaps commuters on other lines will conduct research of their own and add to this and we might end up having our own segmentation database using which we can save the world or something. Somehow. Anyway.

Oh before we proceed, obviously these are broad classifications and one can break these up into any number of sub segments but considering that I have travelled on this for line for like 10 days, this is all I could do. We will get to granularity later.

Type 1: Green Tabloiders (13%)

Characterised by London Lite, Metro and London Paper in their hands, the most common segment in most tube lines. In the Northern Line - Edgware branch, this segment comprises of about 13% of all travelling readers. The point to note is that the tabloid readers in this line are different from other lines in that they are environmentally conscious. They diligently calculate carbon footprints before they undertake any trip, and they make up for it by recycling anything and everything. What this means is that these people will never take the tabloid from the chaps who keep handing them outside the stations. But the second they see one of the tabloids left behind on the train, they will jump over seats in an urge to find out that Sir Paul is a lost puppy looking for love.

Type 2: FT / Guardian readers (21%)

I know. Technically these should be two very different segments but bear with me for a second. Let me explain. Those of you who know your Northern line know that the South bound train branches again at Euston. One branch goes to via Bank and the other branch goes through Charing Cross before they meet again at Kennington. In the course of a normal week, I have to travel on both the Bank and Charing Cross branches (client location in Bank and home office in Leicester Sq) which has proved very helpful for my research. As every Londoner knows, there are marked differences between the people travelling in each of these branches. My research shows that all these differences can be easily explained by what they read. No surprises. Bank reads FT. Charing Cross reads the Guardian.

Type 3: Kids who restore your faith in humanity (5%)

As strange as it may seem, there are quite a few readers in the tube who read Dostoevsky, Heller, F S Fitzgerald, Conrad, Steinbeck, Pynchon. These are usually the 17-22 year old college students who are travelling up / down to visit their parents who live on this line. This is the segment that gives me hope every time I come across one of them - I can finally believe that the next generation will turn out to be, you know, alright.

Type 4: Carrie Bradshaw wannabes (12%)

If Type 3 lifts my heart, this segment usually brings out the worst in me. Despite my best efforts to be non-judgemental and accepting, I see absolutely no reason why these people should exist in the first place and my first instinct is to throw them out of the train along with their pink Sophie Kinsellas and Candace Bushnells. Thankfully for me, it is not physically possible to throw someone out of the tube. And well, if I am a little honest, I am a little afraid of their stilettos. I have been a victim of these deadly weapons (why the fuck is this thing not on some banned assualt weapon list I don't understand) more than once and I have no intention of going there again.

Type 5: Discover oneself and the world types (15%)

This is a fun segment which means that you can extract a lot of entertainment out of them. There are a number of sub segments, but broadly this segment is into discovering the world and everything it has to offer. They want to learn all about exotic places and people and generally feel one with the world. These are the sort of people who will go to a special screening of Salaam Bombay and feel like they could so relate to the kid in the movie. (No, I have not watched Slumdog yet) They also like to have all sorts of adventures all over the world, the ones that white people tend to have. This group reminds one of the Stuff White People Like blog and their Book is Shantaram. (Which btw has to be the most popular book on the London Underground system though thankfully not on my line)

Type 6: The M club (34%)

This is an interesting group to study - their chief characteristic is that they don't have a set of authors or a genre that they read. They just read this one chap. Not kidding. There is this one guy and all 34% read him. They also look down upon every other segment and will usually hold the book pretty high up to ensure that everyone can see what they are reading. I could see myself warming up to this segment if only they exhibited a little more variety in their reading habits. But don't think that is happening. Don't get me wrong. The man is brilliant, one of the greatest writers living but that's not the point. There is something to be said about a large group of people who will only read one writer and nobody else (on the tube atleast). Ya ya, you all know who I am talking about, its not a big surprise is it? Ladies and Gentlemen, the most widely read author on the Edgware branch of the Northern line is Haruki Murakami. M, I am told, is in.

PS: Feanor, unless you want us all to believe that everyone on the Waterloo and City line reads FT except for this one chap who reads Eurocrime, you better do your own segmentation research and tell us about it.

[1] On some days, I take the main line for hours and hours but then I usually end up working the whole time, so no question of being bored.

[2]For those of you who think its slightly scary that I am (usually) the only non-white person inside my tube station, I'd like to remind you that I used to live in Lincoln Park. This is not half as bad. At least once I step outside, the whole world is around me. There is the Bangladeshi chap who hands out the tabloids right outside the station, and there's the Jamaican news stand guy, and then there's the Algerian falafel vendor, the desi clerks at the grocery store and the Chinese dry cleaners. As I said, the whole world around me.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Lovely! I though the most commonly read book would have been the recent Booker winner. Why Haruki?

Fëanor said...

Oh, all right, you've got me cornered. I'll peer at every reader on the WC for the next week and let you know what I find. Homework. There's no end to it.

Ludwig said...

How odd. The most popular author on the Tokyo underground is Ian McEwan.

I made that up, but it would've been a nice symmetry.

Veena said...

Anon: Adiga readers are a subset of Type 5,the M club is supposedly into real literature.

Feanor: Its only homework when you don't want to do it. You tho will do full extra credit also :)

Luddo: Hmm..Wonder if there are Japanese translations of McEwan's works. You go check next time you are in Tokyo.

And dude, you tell us no what people read in the Charminar Express.

Cheshire Cat said...

I find your attitude to Carrie Bradshaw wannabes excessively mild.

This Murakami virus seems like an appropriate topic for Murakami.

Fëanor said...

Trundled into work today but the WC line was shut. So 1/5 of sample size lost. Statistics therefore less reliable at the end of the week, heh.

Veena said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Veena said...

Feanor: Excuse accepted. You get one more day :)

I am surprised that you got to Waterloo. The mainline trains were okay then?

Btw, Bill man got to Cambridge a mere four hours since he started. And now he has no way of getting back.

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